Morel Mushroom Hunting

May 10, 2016
I can’t say I am a total fungus nerd but I do like the idea of gathering these edible morsels right in my backyard. They are hard quite delicious which is part of the reason they are so highly sought after, the other reason is that they are fun to hunt. Here are the basics of Morel hunting in the area. Morels can be difficult to find, here are the basics of mushroom hunting.

  • Morels start to show up in the springtime when the soil warms up. Some experts say the best time to search is when we begin to see trillium, Oregon grapes and strawberries emerge.
  • Early in the season, the best time to hunt is following warm days after a bit of rain, the mushrooms like the moisture but need warm soil to show up.
  • West of the Continental Divide is the best place to find Morels because of the moist soil.
  • Morels are typically found in the forest among their favorite tree species-Aspen groves, Ponderosa Pine, Douglas fir, Grand Fir and Spruce.
  • Morels are also known to grown along the banks of large rivers beneath towering Cottonwood trees. The mushrooms like dead trees.
  • Morels are flourish the year after a large forest fire in burn affected areas.  
  • Morel Mushrooms have harvesting restrictions on public lands in Montana.
  • Morel harvest is prohibited in Glacier National Park.
  • Flathead National Forest allows Morel harvest with certain restrictions. An individual may pick up to 5 gallons of Morels without a permit. After 5 gallons and up to 20 gallons, one must procure a free permit. More than 20 gallons of morels will cost money, consult the Ranger District for specifics.
  • In last year’s three burn areas of Flathead National Forest, permits cost $20 to pick, no matter how many mushrooms you gather.
  • Morels must be cut in half as you pick, this is to prevent commercial use of mushrooms.
On the Hunt (Look to the left of the basket in the photo below to see a morel growing)
  • Morels can be difficult to spot and often disappear in plain sight, but once you’ve acquired your “Morel eye,” you will probably spot another and another and find that there are many more nearby than expected.
  • In a burn area, focus on mosaic ally burned areas where the fire didn’t burn as hot, if the area is completely charred it will be too hot for mushrooms to grow there.
  • Focus on places where moisture gathers, along creeks and seeps and under downed trees.
  • Once you find one, it’s best to bring along a knife and cut the mushroom at the base.
  • As a caution, there are false morels, so be sure to bring along a guidebook and examine thoroughly before picking.
That’s the basics morel hunting. Good luck and happy hunting!

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